People Before Profit are firmly behind nurses and health workers in the North who went out on strike yesterday for the first time in the history of the Royal College of Nursing. The workers are demanding safe staffing levels and an end to pay discrimination which sees health workers in the North earn less than other NHS workers.
The root causes of this strike are very similar to those of the nurses’ strike in the 26 counties earlier this year. Low levels of recruitment and retention of staff have crippled the health service in the North, where there are now 2,800 vacant posts. Patients are now left waiting up to 2 years for important operations. Others are often left on trolleys in Accident & Emergency Departments wards for extended periods.
The disparity in pay between health workers in the North and other NHS workers is a key issue. Newly qualified band five nurses in the North earn £22,795 a year, compared with £24,214 in England and Wales and £24,670 in Scotland.
Both the DUP and Sinn Féin have done nothing to support pay parity. Stormont has consistently let down workers and the establishment parties have been incapable of mounting any challenge to Tory cuts and attacks on workers. With the establishment parties now in talks to restore the Assembly, the issue of increased funding for the health service and pay parity for workers in the North needs to be a red line issue in any agreement.
People Before Profit are in full support of the nurses and health workers. These workers are the backbone of the health service and their hard work deserves to be recognised and rewarded.